Posted in Article Medleys, books, Charters, DollyParton, Duncan, Early Childhood, Evaluations, Privatization, Segregation, Testing, Walsh, WhyTeachersQuit

2018 Medley #20

Segregation, Testing Toddlers, VAM, Duncan Still Unqualified, Why Teachers Quit, Giving Kids Books, Charters

SCHOOL SEGREGATION

Why Is This Happening? Investigating school segregation in 2018 with Nikole Hannah-Jones: podcast and transcript

The U.S. gave up on integrattion. Public school systems are more segregated than when Brown vs. Board of Education was handed down sixty-four years ago. This is all complicated by our underfunding of public education, especially for black and brown students.

So where is the concept of the public good — where is the concept of “promote the general welfare”?

Nikole Hannah-Jones is one of the few voices calling for Americans to teach their children…all their children…together.

…who the hell pays your social security one day?

Right, when we’re a country that is very quickly going to be a minority white country and you’re gonna continue to under-educate half of the population of your country, then what jobs are they gonna get that are gonna help pay for the infrastructure of this country, that are gonna help pay your social security.

 

TESTING

Toddlers and Preschool Testing? Don’t Steal the Joy of Reading!

From the makers of DIBELS comes a new test…this one for toddlers. The next step in educational malpractice.

A child three years old is still a toddler. What demands, if any, should be placed on a child this young when it comes to learning to read? Will it harm their chances of enjoying reading in the future? This is what we should ask when it comes to the new PELI testing.

The same creators of DIBELS (Dynamic Indicators of Basic Literacy Skills), the controversial assessment started with the controversial program Reading First, following the recommendations of the controversial National Reading Panel, now have reading assessment for children as young as three years old.

DIBELS uses nonsense syllables which might not mean anything to a child. There are other problems with the assessment according to reading expert Ken Goodman who edited Examining DIBELS: What it is What it Does.

 

Top 10 Reasons You Can’t Fairly Evaluate Teachers on Student Test Scores

Using student test scores to evaluate teachers isn’t appropriate, yet we still do it. There’s no rational reason for continuing a practice that even the American Statistical Association says is statistically unreliable and invalid. This ignorant use of numbers is just another example of America’s anti-science and anti-intellectualism.

Steven Singer lists 10 reasons why VAM is junk science…

2) You can’t assess teachers on tests that were made to assess students.

This violates fundamental principles of both statistics and assessment. If you make a test to assess A, you can’t use it to assess B. That’s why many researchers have labeled the process “junk science” – most notably the American Statistical Association in 2014. Put simply, the standardized tests on which VAM estimates are based have always been, and continue to be, developed to assess student achievement and not growth in student achievement nor growth in teacher effectiveness. The tests on which VAM estimates are based were never designed to estimate teachers’ effects. Doing otherwise is like assuming all healthy people go to the best doctors and all sick people go to the bad ones. If I fail a dental screening because I have cavities, that doesn’t mean my dentist is bad at his job. It means I need to brush more and lay off the sugary snacks.

 

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan says U.S. education system “not top 10 in anything”

I agreed with some of what Duncan had to say in his interview on Face the Nation. Unfortunately, when he had the chance to change things he made them worse.

In 2015 I wrote,

Look what we got…Arne Duncan — who never set foot in a public school as either a student or a teacher — and Race to the Top which doubled down on No Child Left Behind’s labeling of low test takers as losers. Arne Duncan, who cheered when an entire school full of teachers in Rhode Island were fired because the school was “low achieving” (aka filled with high poverty students). Arne Duncan, who manipulated federal dollars meant for low income students so that it became a contest to see which states could raise the caps on Charters fast enough and evaluate teachers based on test scores.

It’s the ultimate of ironies that this man wrote a book called “How Schools Work.”

“We say we value education, but we never vote on education. We never hold politicians accountable — local, state or national level — for getting better results,” Duncan, the education secretary under President Obama, said on “Face the Nation” on Sunday. He added that the “toughest lie” for him personally is that “we say we value kids, and we’ve raised a generation of young people, teens, who have been raised on mass shootings and gun violence, and that simply doesn’t happen in other nations.”

“I don’t look at what people say. I look at their actions, their policies. I look at their budgets. Our values don’t reflect that we care about education or we care about teachers or that we truly care about keeping our children safe and free of fear,” Duncan said.

 

WHY TEACHERS QUIT

Brittani Pollock: “I Left Teaching. I Had To.”

Here is yet another story about a teacher who left teaching. In this case it’s because of lack of funding in poorly funded Oklahoma. Americans are so intent on paying no taxes that we’re sabatoging our future.

I’m donating my blog today to a former student, now friend, Brittani. She was my student and an officer in my club, Teen Volunteers, at Norman North. I always knew she wanted to be a teacher, you could see her deep love of children when she volunteered. I watched her get her teaching degree and watched as she began what we both thought would be a long career in the classroom. I planned to watch her become a National Board Certified Teacher. Things did not work out the way we hoped. And my heart is broken for every student who will never know Miss Pollock’s love.

 

GIVE KIDS BOOKS

Dolly Parton’s literacy program donates its 100 millionth book to Library of Congress

Before LeBron James, there was Dolly Parton. She started the Imagination Library in 1995. From the Imagination Library web site

…a book gifting program that mails free, high-quality books to children from birth until they begin school, no matter their family’s income.

After launching in 1995, the program grew quickly. First books were only distributed to children living in Sevier County, Tennessee where Dolly grew up. It became such a success that in 2000 a national replication effort was underway. By 2003, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library had mailed one million books. It would prove to be the first of many millions of books sent to children around the world.

Earlier this year the Imagination Library sent out its 100 millionth book.

Alongside Carla Hayden, who heads the Library of Congress, the iconic country singer dedicated the 100 millionth book from her Imagination Library to the research library. Through the nonprofit, she has been donating millions of books to children for more than 20 years.

 

…as of August 1, 2018

The 4th Annual National Give-A-Kid-A-Book Day

Speaking of giving kids books, last July 6 was the fourth annual Give-A-Kid-A-Book day. Did you remember? Russ Walsh reminds us every year.

It’s not too late…give-a-kid-a-book today.

Literacy research has shown that the single best way to combat summer reading loss is to get books in kids hands. One way to do this is to give children books.

Participation is easy. All you need to do to is find a child and give that child a book. The child could be your own, a neighbor’s child, a student, a grandchild, one of your own kid’s friends, children in a homeless shelter. Just give the child a book and say, “I thought you might enjoy this.” Some participants like to include a lollipop or other small sweet treat to send the message, “Reading is Sweet!”, but the most important thing is to give a kid book.

 

CHARTERS

In the Public Interest’s weekly privatization report

In the Public Interest posts a weekly privatization report. The reports cover more than just the privatization of public schools. Here is just one of eleven different reports about charter schools from this week’s report.

You might also be interested in taking a look at Breaking Point: The Cost of Charter Schools for Public School Districts.

29) Pennsylvania Just a few weeks before the start of the new school year, Wonderland Charter School in Ferguson Township is closing its doors, sending students and parents scrambling after they received email notification. “During the charter review, several people associated with Wonderland, including board members, teachers and parents, informed the board of directors of their concerns with the charter: ‘long-standing, calculated, inappropriate, and unlawful practices with respect to students with special needs,’ according to a letter to the board from Superintendent Bob O’Donnell.”

 

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Posted in Accountability, Article Medleys, Evaluations, Florida, John Kuhn, Michigan, poverty, reform, special education, TeacherShortage

2017 Medley #32: The Teacher Shortage

The Teacher Shortage: Poverty,
Special Education, Evaluations,
Untrained teachers, and Accountability

THE TEACHER SHORTAGE

The poverty problem

Why it’s a big problem that so many teachers quit — and what to do about it

As with most other results of the corporate “reform” movement in education, the most damage is done to students, teachers, and schools in areas that can least afford it: low-income areas and special education.

Linda Darling-Hammond and researchers from the Learning Policy Institute report on research detailing the effects of the current teacher shortage, and how it damages the education of low-income students in particular. The shortage is advanced by anti-teacher and anti-public education legislation and a bipartisan, public campaign against teachers that is ubiquitous. There no longer needs to be any discussion about which state is “the worst” for public education – Indiana, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan – it’s everywhere.

Our research on teacher shortages and the turnover that contributes to them emphasizes how much these conditions vary across teaching fields, types of schools, and locations. We document how they are much more problematic in some regions, states, and districts than others; more widespread in particular subjects; and most pronounced in schools that serve students of color and those from low-income families.

Research shows that high teacher turnover rates in schools negatively impact student achievement for all the students in a school, not just those in a new teacher’s classroom. These rates are highest in schools serving low-income students and students of color. [emphasis added]

Caring for ‘the least of these’

Funding cuts spell trouble for special education in Indiana

Indiana’s particular brand of “reform” has resulted in an education funding shortfall. Budget cuts would, of course, hurt the students most, who need the most help. The shortage of special education teachers, who are the strongest advocates for their students, makes this especially troubling.

Advocating for students in special ed will become more and more difficult. We can expect to have to fight for these services for special education children who need them, even though the IDOE memo states: “Please remember that funding is not a topic for case conference committee discussion. No decisions about services should be based on whether DOE is able to help schools with funding.”

Evaluations

There will never be enough bad teachers to satisfy some people (The Chicago Tribune).

Illinois “reformers” wonder how there can be so many highly-rated teachers when there are so many “failing” schools?

The editorial board of the Chicago Tribune is still unhappy with the way teachers in Illinois are evaluated because the current system still has too many teachers rated in the top two tiers of the ranking categories.

We had the same problem here in Indiana a few years ago.

Study finds 87 percent of Indiana teachers “effective”

Given that one in four Hoosier children are not passing the state ISTEP assessment, how is it that 97 percent of those teachers who were rated have been classified in the top two categories of effectiveness? Today’s data simply does not correlate with the student results we’re seeing in the classroom.

The data does, indeed, correlate, because student test scores are not a valid measure of teacher effectiveness. The “failing schools” narrative is more complicated than “reformers” will admit. Schools can’t be judged by test scores alone and the quality of teachers isn’t the only variable that has an impact on student achievement.

“Reformers,” however, are interested in damaging the teaching profession in order to lower salaries and increase profits. Blaming teachers is good for the privatization business.

Once the profession is damaged, and fewer young people seek a career in education, the lowering of standards (and consequent increase in profits) can continue. Florida, for example…

Damaging the profession

Florida’s Teacher Gap Is No Mystery

Florida is “solving” the problem by opening up alternative paths, because the way to get better teachers and fill teaching jobs is by making it possible to slap any warm body into a classroom. My favorite bar-lowering idea― Florida Atlantic University will give Palm Beach Schools a list of students who flunked out of medical and science programs so that those students can be recruited to teach. And meanwhile the remaining dedicated, qualified teachers of Florida wonder how much longer they can hold on.

…and Michigan…

We don’t need no education

The Michigan legislators and governor are a match for Indiana, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and the rest of the nation by showing how easy it is to cause a teacher shortage.

Snyder seems to show few actual emotions of any kind. But his fellow Republicans in the legislature are vindictive and nasty. They seem to hate teachers, even more than they hate most in the public sector, and especially hate teachers’ unions.

Five years ago, they passed a law preventing local districts from paying more than a certain percentage of health care coverage for their teachers.

Republican lawmakers also rammed through right-to-work in a lame duck session at the end of 2012, gloating as they did it that this was bound to weaken the MEA and other unions who traditionally give money to try and defeat them.

If that weren’t enough, they also promptly passed a law that would make it so public school districts are no longer required to deduct union dues from teachers’ paychecks, as had been common practice for decades.

Nor were they done humiliating educators:

New teachers traditionally started at a low salary, then advanced year by year on a negotiated schedule till they reached something like a middle-class life style. But the benevolent legislators also pulled the rug out from under teachers in that way too, passing another law in 2012 that allowed school districts to not move teachers up on the salary schedule.

“As a result, we have teachers across the state in many districts who haven’t seen a raise in five years,” the MEA’s Crim says. Couple that with inflation and the rising cost of benefits, and it’s no wonder that a lot of students have had second thoughts about going into the profession.

How do you think the state of Michigan will deal with the lack of teacher? Again, like Indiana and Wisconsin…

Others have suggested we just drop the requirement for a teaching certificate and let retired professionals take a crack at the classroom.

That might make some sense at the university level, though being able to do a job doesn’t automatically mean you can teach others the subject matter. But it doesn’t work at high school and especially for elementary school.

Who will accept responsibility?

Label the Lawmakers

Accountability measures for public school achievement are universally aimed at teachers, students, and school systems. Sometimes parents are part of the mix, but rarely are one of the most important stakeholders in public school achievement included in accountability legislation and provisions.

Those unaccountable stakeholders? They are the legislators and policy makers who control the funding for education and the out of school conditions in which children live.

John Kuhn, superintendent of Mineral Wells ISD in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, wrote this letter several years ago. Nothing has changed. 100% of the blame for low achievement is still being heaped on teachers and schools. Legislators and policy makers are still doing their best to damage the teaching profession and avoid their own responsibility.

It’s time to revive this post…

The age of accountability should be renamed the age of blame, when teachers wear the scarlet letter for the failings of a nation. We send teachers into pockets of poverty that our leaders can’t or won’t eradicate, and when those teachers fail to work miracles among devastated children, we stamp ‘unacceptable’ on their foreheads.

I ask you, where is the label for the lawmaker whose policies fail to clean up the poorest neighborhoods? Why do we not demand that our leaders make “Adequate Yearly Progress”? We have data about poverty, health care, crime, and drug abuse in every legislative district. We know that those factors directly impact our ability to teach kids. Why have we not established annual targets for our legislators to meet? Why do they not join us beneath these vinyl banners that read “exemplary” in the suburbs and “unacceptable” in the slums?

Let us label lawmakers like we label teachers, and we can eliminate 100 percent of poverty, crime, drug abuse, and preventable illness by 2014! It is easy for elected officials to tell teachers to “Race to the top” when no one has a stopwatch on them! Lace up your sneakers, Senators! Come race with us!

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Posted in Article Medleys, Evaluations, Merit Pay, Teaching Career, Testing, WhyTeachersQuit

2017 Medley #12: Teachers

Why Teachers Quit, Teacher Evaluations, Teacher Pay, Experience Matters 

WHY TEACHERS QUIT

Previous posts about why teachers quit (more).

Many legislators, privatizers, and “reformers” continue to blame teachers for low achievement. Unionism is anathema to some because teachers unions, in many places, are the only thing preventing the compete corporate takeover of public education. The right wing in America continues to push myths about failing public schools and the dual “solution” of charters and vouchers.

The teacher shortage currently afflicting public education in the U.S. is not surprising. Fewer college students are choosing education as a career due to declining wages, fewer benefits, lower social status, and the constant drumbeat of failure (see here, here, and here).

Public schools are not failing. Public schools reflect the failure of the nation to build an equitable society.

Teacher Resignation Letters Paint Bleak Picture of U.S. Education

Studies are showing what public educators already know…that “reform” is driving teachers from the classroom.

In a trio of studies, Michigan State University education expert Alyssa Hadley Dunn and colleagues examined the relatively new phenomenon of teachers posting their resignation letters online. Their findings, which come as many teachers are signing next year’s contracts, suggest educators at all grade and experience levels are frustrated and disheartened by a nationwide focus on standardized tests, scripted curriculum and punitive teacher-evaluation systems.

Teacher turnover costs more than $2.2 billion in the U.S. each year and has been shown to decrease student achievement in the form of reading and math test scores.

“The reasons teachers are leaving the profession has little to do with the reasons most frequently touted by education reformers, such as pay or student behavior,” said Dunn, assistant professor of teacher education. “Rather, teachers are leaving largely because oppressive policies and practices are affecting their working conditions and beliefs about themselves and education.”

Teacher resignation letter goes viral: ‘I will not subject my child to this disordered system’

A teacher from Florida tells why she’s leaving.

Like many other teachers across the nation, I have become more and more disturbed by the misguided reforms taking place which are robbing my students of a developmentally appropriate education. Developmentally appropriate practice is the bedrock upon which early childhood education best practices are based, and has decades of empirical support behind it. However, the new reforms not only disregard this research, they are actively forcing teachers to engage in practices which are not only ineffective but actively harmful to child development and the learning process.

Letter Written Down By A Teacher Goes Viral!

This is not a resignation letter, but this letter from a teacher in Oklahoma is indicative of the problems public school teachers face on a daily basis.

We can no longer afford rolls of colored paper or paint or tape to make signs to support and advertise our Student Council activities. This fall our football team won’t charge through a decorated banner as they take the field because we can’t afford to make the banner. There won’t be any new textbooks in the foreseeable future. Broken desks won’t be replaced. We’re about to ration copy paper and we’ve already had the desktop printers taken out of our rooms.

We live in fear that our colleagues will leave us, not just because they are our friends, but because the district wouldn’t replace them even if we could lure new teachers to our inner-city schools during the teacher shortage you[, the legislature] have caused. We fear our classes doubling in size.

We fear becoming as ineffective as you are. Not because we can’t or won’t do our job, like you, but because you keep passing mandates to make us better while taking away all the resources we need just to maintain the status quo. We fear that our second jobs will prevent us from grading the papers we already have to do from home. We fear our families will leave us because we don’t have time for them.

TEACHER EVALUATIONS

Teacher Evaluation: It’s About Relationships Not Numbers

If we don’t use test scores to evaluate teachers what should we use? This question implies that test scores are not only appropriate to use as a teacher evaluation, but there isn’t anything else which is as accurate. That’s not true. Using student achievement tests to evaluate teachers (or schools) is an invalid since achievement tests are developed to evaluate students, not their teachers.

A good teacher develops relationships with her students. Good relationships improve the classroom atmosphere and create the feelings of safety and trust necessary for learning. The same is necessary for teacher evaluation; there must be a feeling of trust between the evaluator, usually an administrator, and the teacher. Russ Walsh explains…

Reformers can’t see this very simple and most basic fact of teacher evaluation because they are focused on a fool’s errand of seeking objectivity through numbers and a plan designed to weed out low performers, rather than a plan designed to improve performance of all teachers. These folks could have easily found out the flaws in the plan. All they needed to do was spend some time in schools talking to teachers and supervisors. To the extent that current teacher evaluation schemes interfere with teachers and supervisors developing trusting relationships, they are pre-ordained to fail.

TEACHER PAY

Just Paying Teachers More Won’t Stop Them From Quitting

Ask most teachers. They will tell you that they didn’t choose education because of the high pay. Most people who become teachers do so because they want to make a difference in the lives of children.

“Reformers” don’t understand that people don’t become teachers for the huge salaries. Autonomy, respect, and a living wage, is enough. Teachers are quitting because in many areas, they aren’t getting any of those.

“Teachers have also been subjected to demonization” from people and politicians from both the right and left, said Lawrence Mishel, the president of the Economic Policy Institute and one of the authors of the report, noting that Education Secretary John King in January felt the need to offer what many saw as an apology to teachers after taking over the Education Department. “Despite the best of intentions, teachers and principals have felt attacked and unfairly blamed for the challenges our nation faces as we strive to improve outcomes for all students,” King said at the time.

Merit Pay for Teachers Can Lead to Higher Test Scores for Students, a Study Finds

Merit pay is, as Diane Ravitch says, the idea that never works and never dies.

If you define “student learning” simply by a standardized test score, then you might be able to design a merit pay plan which will get higher test scores, but that’s not education.

This report in Education Week summarizing research into merit pay, indicates that merit pay helps teachers find ways to increase test scores for some students, oftentimes by learning to “game the system.”

Teacher participation in a merit-pay program led to the equivalent of four extra weeks of student learning, according to a new analysis of 44 studies of incentive-pay initiatives in the United States and abroad.

New Merit Pay Study Hits The Wrong Target

Peter Greene follows up on the Education Week report. He emphasizes that testing is not teaching and that “gaming the system” is essentially paying people more who learn how to cheat.

The basis of the research is wrong. Education is not a test score. Learning is not a test score.

Springer’s research suffers from the same giant, gaping ridiculous hole as the research that he meta-analyzed– he assumes that his central measure measures what it claims to measure. This is like meta-analysis of a bunch of research from eight-year-olds who all used home made rulers to measure their own feet and “found” that their feet are twice as big as the feet of eight-year-olds in other country. If you don’t ever check their home-made rulers for accuracy, you are wasting everyone’s time.

At a minimum, this study shows that the toxic testing that is already narrowing and damaging education in this country can be given a extra jolt of destructive power when backed with money. The best this study can hope to say is that incentives encourage teachers to aim more carefully for the wrong target. As one of the EdWeek commenters put it, “Why on earth would you want to reward teachers with cash for getting higher test scores?” What Springer may have proven is not that merit pay works, but that Campbell’s Law does.

EXPERIENCE MATTERS

New Studies Find That, for Teachers, Experience Really Does Matter

Education is more than a test score. Teachers with experience provide more than test prep for their students.

Researchers Helen F. Ladd and Lucy C. Sorenson, both of Duke University, in Durham, N.C., analyzed records from about 1.2 million middle school students in North Carolina from 2007 to 2011, including absences, reported disciplinary offenses, and test scores. The data also contain responses from 6th through 8th graders about time spent on homework and their reading habits…

Regarding nontest outcomes, the data show that as teachers gained experience, they were linked to lower rates of student absenteeism. The researchers postulate that more experienced teachers got better at motivating students and in classroom management, resulting in better attendance and fewer infractions.

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Posted in A-F Grading, Evaluations, IREAD-3, ISTEP, retention, Testing, vouchers

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Test – 2017

ISTEP is still doing damage to Indiana students, teachers, and schools. The promise to end the mess that is the State of Indiana’s testing program was just political deception in order to assuage voters during the last election cycle. The election is over and we have elected the same folks who have been dumping education “reform” policies on the children of Indiana for the last dozen years. They have grown the importance of ISTEP into a bludgeon to punish low income children, their teachers, and their schools. The pretense of the test being a tool to analyze children’s progress has all but disappeared.

Public outcry against the test inspired former Governor Pence to form a team to find an alternative, but it was led by political appointees and some educators on the panel had their voices overruled by the sound of cash clinking into test-makers’ (aka political donors) wallets. Others gave up, apparently thinking, “This is the best we’ll get.”

Nevertheless, the recommendations of the panel were for a shorter test with quicker turnaround. The recommendations also called for a two year window to plan for the changes…in the meantime, the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad test continues.

ISTEP will involve too many hours of student instructional time – twice during the school year (thrice for third graders who are also subject to being punished by IREAD-3 for not learning quickly enough). ISTEP will still be responsible for teacher evaluations and A-F school grades even though it was designed only to evaluate student knowledge. So much for any rules of testing which say that tests should only be used to evaluate what they were designed to evaluate – in this case student achievement.

Maybe we ought to try education policies which have actually been shown to be effective. Let’s do this instead…

  • End the A-F Grading system for schools. A letter grade does not reflect the climate or quality of a school.
  • Stop using tests to evaluate teachers. There are other, better professional evaluation tools out there (see this report, by Linda Darling-Hammond, et al.)
  • End IREAD-3 and any student evaluation process by which students are retained in grade. Retention doesn’t work. Intensive early intervention does. See here, here, and here.
  • If standardized tests must be used, use those tests which can return student achievement information in a timely manner so teachers can use the information in their instruction.
  • Better yet, don’t use standardized tests at all. With the millions of dollars saved by not purchasing standardized tests, provide early intervention funds to schools with significant numbers of at-risk students.
  • Your suggestion here: __________
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Posted in David Berliner, Evaluations, ISTEP, Lead, poverty, reform, Testing, Uncategorized

Where Toxins Meet Testing

ISTEP

Indiana’s state test, the ISTEP, is misused in the same way many states misuse standardized tests. It’s used to grade schools on an A to F scale and it’s used to determine which teachers get bonuses, which are deemed unsatisfactory, and which are to be fired. (I suppose that it’s also possible that in some places it’s used to see how well students have learned the state standards, but I doubt the state really cares about that.) In addition, another test, the IREAD-3, is misused to retain third grade students who are struggling with reading.

Currently the state is struggling over the ISTEP. A committee looked into problems with the test and made recommendations. Last year’s tests were so screwed up that the legislature agreed to not hold schools and teachers accountable for the results. For the results to be so bad that even Indiana’s “reformist” legislature “pauses accountability,” you know it must be bad.

The committee was charged with coming up with something that didn’t have as many problems as the ISTEP. That task was not accomplished.

‘ISTEP’ Name May Change, But Test Itself May Not For 2 More Years

“We need about two-and-a-half to three years to get a new test that is sound, based on our standards, thought out and vetted clearly through the education system,” says Sen. Dennis Kruse, chair of the Senate committee on education. “That’ll [be] a better test at the end of that time.”

…Rep. Bob Behning, chair of the House committee on education, wants the board to extend that contract. If extended, it would leave ISTEP+ in place through the 2018-19 school year.

The test is a failure, yet it has high stakes consequences for schools, teachers, and students. So, according to the chairs of both the Senate (Kruse) and House (Behning) education committees, we should keep using it.

TEACHER BONUS PAY BASED ON SCHOOL’S FAMILY INCOME

In the area of teacher bonus pay, the results of the state testing shows exactly what one would expect. Those teachers who work in wealthy districts have students who score higher on the ISTEP, and therefore get larger bonuses. In an earlier post, I wrote that

…standardized test scores measure family income. So when you base a teacher “bonus” plan on student standardized test scores you get a plan that favors teachers of the wealthy over teachers of the poor.

And that’s just what happened here.

Indiana’s wealthiest districts get most teacher bonus pay

Data released Wednesday by the Indiana Department of Education shows Carmel Clay Schools leading the state in the most performance money per teacher at more than $2,400. Zionsville Community Schools came in second at more than $2,200, The Indianapolis Star reported.

Comparatively, Indianapolis Public Schools will receive nearly $130 per teacher. Wayne Township Schools will see among the lowest payments, at just more than $40 per teacher.

The amount of the “bonus” doesn’t prove that teachers in high-poverty schools aren’t as good as teachers in low-poverty schools. It is just more proof that family income determines school success.*

TOXIC ENVIRONMENTS

One (of many) out-of-school factors which contributes to lowered academic achievement of children in poverty is an environment filled with toxins. Pollutants such as mercury, PCBs, toxic pesticides, and air pollution are all factors contributing to the health and brain function of children living in high-poverty areas. The most prevalent problem is, of course, lead.

In 2009, David C. Berliner, Regents’ Professor Emeritus at Arizona State University, wrote in Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success

It is now understood that there is no safe level of lead in the human body, and that lead at any level has an impact on IQ.

The Centers for Disease Control sets the “safe lead exposure” levels and recently has suggested that the “safe” level should be lowered.

CDC considers lowering threshold level for lead exposure

The CDC adjusts its threshold periodically as nationwide average levels drop. The threshold value is meant to identify children whose blood lead levels put them among the 2.5 percent of those with the heaviest exposure.

“Lead has no biological function in the body, and so the less there is of it in the body the better,” Bernard M Y Cheung, a University of Hong Kong professor who studies lead data, told Reuters. “The revision in the blood lead reference level is to push local governments to tighten the regulations on lead in the environment.”

The federal agency is talking with state health officials, laboratory operators, medical device makers and public housing authorities about how and when to implement a new threshold.

…Any change in the threshold level carries financial implications. The CDC budget for assisting states with lead safety programs this year was just $17 million, and many state or local health departments are understaffed to treat children who test high.

In other words, according to the CDC, the “safe” level is whatever level the bottom 2.5% of American children exhibit. The actual “safe” level is much lower (in fact, the only “safe” level of lead in a child’s system is 0.00), but the cost of reducing lead levels in every child in America is too high.

Children attending schools in high poverty areas are exposed to lead at a much higher rate than in low poverty areas.

Children suffer from lead poisoning in 3,000 U.S. neighborhoods

A new study of public health records has discovered 3,000 neighborhoods in America where children suffer from lead poisoning. The study, by the Reuters news agency, found lead poisoning twice and even four times higher than what was seen in the recent contaminated water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

That exposure has an impact on school success. Again, Berliner…

The neurological damage caused by lead pollution has been common knowledge for about a century, but even over recent decades, tragic effects such as this have been documented in families and communities around the world. Even after some obvious sources of lead in the environment were finally banned, reducing the numbers of children showing effects, too many children in the United States are still affected.

MAKING A CONNECTION

Our overuse and misuse of testing during the last few decades has led to over identifying schools in high poverty areas as “failing” without any regard for environmental toxins. Take the case of East Chicago schools…

Turnaround Meetings for Gary and East Chicago Schools

“If the school does receive a sixth F, and we expect those grades to come out this winter, then the board can begin looking at what options it wants to if any, take,” said [State Board of Education chief of staff, Brian] Murphy.

At the same time, the schools being labeled as “failing” exist in an area where lead poisoning is ubiquitous.

East Chicago Lead Contamination Forces Nearly 1,200 from Homes

Both the EPA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development are trying to deal with the contamination and moving residents, but the two agencies aren’t exactly working together well. The mayor of East Chicago and the residents are also concerned about how the EPA handled the situation and worried about the long-term ramifications of lead exposure as well as the costs of moving.

Do legislators read newspapers? Are they aware that 1) lead poisoning causes learning problems and 2) the so called “failing” schools are in areas with a high lead exposure? Why hasn’t there been an outcry blaming the low test scores on the lead poisoning of East Chicago children? Can you guess how big a “bonus” teachers in East Chicago schools got this year?*

A Strange Ignorance: The role of lead poisoning in failing schools

“The education community has not really understood the dimensions of this because we don’t see kids falling over and dying of lead poisoning in the classroom. But there’s a very large number of kids who find it difficult to do analytical work or [even] line up in the cafeteria because their brains are laden with lead.”

As a consequence, teachers and school systems get blamed for what is beyond their control. The legislature can’t (or won’t) see the connection between the two situations, and children’s futures, and their future contributions to the state, are damaged by their environment.

Legislators and “reformers” should quit placing the blame on schools, teachers, and children through punitive legislation aimed at “fixing” low achievement. It’s the state’s responsibility to provide a safe environment for all citizens…including those who don’t have enough money to buy lobbyists.

When the legislature assumes its share of responsibility for “failing” to provide safe environmental conditions in our communities, and for “failing” to address the state’s child poverty rate, then…maybe…we can start to talk about “failing” schools.

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East Chicago ANOTHER Race-Based Lead Poisoning

…with lead pipes it’s like a recall on a product, but nobody wants to go back to the manufacturer and say, “Hey, you’ve made a mistake. You’re poisoning people.” We’ll recall a vehicle, but we won’t recall a pipe that is lead…a lead pipe that people are consuming water through. It’s part of their daily consumption.

…We’ll also recall leaded paint. But we’re not recalling leaded pipes.

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*Data on the Teacher Performance Grants can be found on the Indiana Department of Education site. Click here to download a spreadsheet for each school district in Indiana. Pay special attention to the number of special education districts at the $0 end of the spreadsheet.

For demographic data on each school district see Indiana School District Demographic Characteristics. Note the family poverty rates for the school districts mentioned above: Carmel Clay=3.5%, Zionsville=3.1%, Indianapolis Public Schools=26.8%, and Wayne Township=14.7%.

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Posted in A-F Grading, ALEC, Article Medleys, DeVos, Evaluations, NewYear, Religion, Teaching Career, Testing

2016 Medley #34: Happy New Year

Happy New Year, Real Life Classrooms,
Religion in Public Schools, ALEC,
School Grades, Betsy DeVos

WRAPPING UP 2016

This is the 93rd and last post to this blog of 2016.

It’s common to wrap up a year in “top ten” lists and such. But a calendar year is a human construct built around the cycle of seasons, and good and bad things happen every year. We all have successes and failures…triumphs and tragedies…joys and sorrows.

A lot has been made recently of the number of celebrities who died in 2016, and it’s true that there were famous people who died this year, just like every year. However, science blogger Greg Laden makes it clear that of the last 7 years, 2016 has had the fewest celebrity deaths.

It’s true that some of the celebrity deaths in 2016 were to people who were “too young to die” (Christina Grimmie, 22 and Anton Yelchin, 27) – artists who were just beginning to make their mark on popular culture. On the other hand, there were many who had lived long, productive lives (Elie Wiesel, 87, Noel Neill, 95 and Abe Vigoda, 94).

My point is not to minimize the importance of anyone’s loss at the death of a friend, relative, or cultural icon, but to suggest that 2016 is like any other year, with its share of sadness and tragedy.

The Guardian suggests that the emotional response to 2016 celebrity deaths is exacerbated by technology

There may not, in fact, have been an unusual number of celebrity deaths this year, but they seem to have been much more salient than before. Part of this must be the result of the growing reach and responsiveness of digital media. Technology makes it possible to observe and react to a distant readership almost as accurately and immediately as an actor can respond to their audience in a theatre. Sudden emotional impulses are amplified with astonishing speed across the internet just as they can be in a crowd. Each apparently solitary smartphone user is really sharing other people’s emotion as well as their own.

It’s not just emotions that are shared in this way. It’s memories as well. The generations of middle-aged people along with all their children and grandchildren have experienced a kind of collectivisation of childhood. This was a historic shift. Before the mass media, childhood memories were shared among very small groups, and anchored to particular places. But for the last 60 years, children in the west, and increasingly elsewhere, have grown up in front of televisions, and many of the most vivid characters of their childhood and adolescence were actors or singers.

Each year is also filled with events which elicit our emotional responses…events like: family occasions (births, weddings, etc), sporting events, and – dare I mention it – political contests.

The path of humanity through history is a path of emotional responses to events in our lives. Joy and sorrow are natural human responses and each is balanced by the other.

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

REAL LIFE CLASSROOMS

“Reformers” are often strangers to public school classrooms, either because they haven’t been in one since childhood, or because they were never in one at all. Former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan never attended and never taught in a public school. His only experience with public education was as the CEO of Chicago Public Schools – where he got no first hand classroom experience and as a parent of public school children after he was already appointed Secretary of Education.

The new nominee for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, is likewise devoid of any public education experience. She never attended a public school. She never taught in a public school. Her children never attended a public school. How is she qualified to lead the federal department charged with supporting America’s public schools?

Real schools are peopled with real children and real teachers…real support personnel and real administrators. Their voices need to be guiding public education in the US.

Peace on Earth, Good Will Towards Children

I teach first grade in the Chicago Public Schools. I know my job well, and I am actually very good at it (according to all the Christmas cards from children I just opened). And this is what I can tell you, in spite of the politics and policy of education that get harmfully thrown around – the most important part of this job is to keep children safe, and care for them deeply so they can live the lives they were meant to live.

The Only Subjects That Matter

I’m an English teacher, but I will argue till your ears are blue that history is the single most important subject of all and the root of all other education.

6 Ways in Which Teaching Is Nothing Like the Movies

It doesn’t work that way in real life. Maybe your kids do love you. Maybe most of them look forward to your class and work hard and achieve things they never thought were possible. But it’s not all of them, dammit! There’s always that one who fights everything you do. And there are always six or seven who sit quietly in the back of the class, and you never know whether they’re learning or sleeping or secretly plotting your violent overthrow. Yeah, sometimes the bad kid ends up being your greatest ally, just like in the movies. Other times he takes his pants off in your class. Mysteriously enough, often it’s both.

RELIGION IN THE SCHOOLS

Can students pray in public schools? Can teachers say ‘Merry Christmas’? What’s allowed — and what’s forbidden.

How do you handle religion in your classroom? Many teachers don’t understand what is and isn’t allowed in the classrooms.

“Can students pray inside their public school buildings? Can teachers say “Merry Christmas” to their students? Can religious music be played in public schools? Yes, yes and yes. There has been a great deal of misunderstanding about what is allowed and not allowed when it comes to religious expression in public schools…”

Students are allowed religious expression in public schools unless it disrupts the education process. In other words, they can pray before they eat, before tests, at recess, and at other times during the day. They can talk about their own religious beliefs. They can even share them with others. What they can’t do is disrupt the class with religious preaching or interrupt the education of others or themselves. Adults in the school are not allowed to direct religious expression.

The U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled that kids can’t pray in school. What the Court has done — and continues to do — is to strike down school-sponsored prayers and devotional exercises as violations of religious liberty.

As a result of those decisions, school officials may not impose prayers, or organize prayer events, or turn the school auditorium into the local church for religious celebrations.

See also: Religion in the Public Schools: A Road Map for Avoiding Lawsuits and Respecting Parents’ Legal Rights

ALEC

ALEC politicians cut backroom deals to float voucher legislation in several states

Follow the money…from private schools, from charter school edupreneurs, to politicians’ campaign coffers.

State politicians across the nation are skirting ethics laws and making backroom deals with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) to trade their votes away in 2017 to corporate special interests pushing voucher legislation.

GRADES

Opinion: What school grades really say

Students are not widgets. They cannot be standardized. Using the same bar to measure two students from diverse backgrounds is unfair, unrealistic, and unproductive. Using student tests to compare schools is equally unreasonable. Tests were made to measure student achievement, not school or teacher quality.

…factors outside of the school have a dramatic impact on academic performance, making so-called accountability measures such as school grades useless as a determinant of school and teacher quality. If we were serious in Indiana about improving educational opportunities and outcomes for all Hoosier students, we would stop focusing on standardized tests and school grades and listen to the professionals who work most closely with our children on a daily basis—their teachers. If we would allow teachers to do their work without interference and arbitrary judgements, what we would see would not be the same in every classroom or for every child, and that is as it should be. Education is a people business, not a product business, and it is time we start trusting our people.

See also: Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success

School grades still reflect student demographics

How long will it be before “reformers” admit that standardized tests measure family income?

It was true five years ago and it’s still true today. The grades that Indiana assigns to schools say more about the students the schools serve than how effective the schools are.

A change in the grading system this year was a step in the right direction, but not a big enough step to make the grades fair or credible. Schools that get high grades are still more likely than not to serve few students from poor families. Those that get low grades are almost certainly high-poverty schools.

Op-ed: Indiana fails test on teacher bonuses

We know – and have known for a long time – that standardized test scores measure family income. So when you base a teacher “bonus” plan on student standardized test scores you get a plan that favors teachers of the wealthy over teachers of the poor.

Perhaps the legislators and policy makers who put this plan into action were ignorant of the facts of testing. Perhaps they did so because they collected campaign contributions from pro-test groups and testing corporations. Whatever the reason, they shouldn’t be shocked at the result.

The policy is so flawed that the result was highly predictable. Gov. Mike Pence and his minions in the legislature boasted in 2013 that this would reward highly proficient teachers and sort out (shame?) the less effective.

In effect, it undermined the poorer districts and gave to the wealthy, shattering inner-city morale and contributing to a teacher shortage. It was a business model designed to make schools compete for resources, ignoring two important premises: (1) that excellent teaching is a collaborative effort, and, (2) competition creates winners but also losers. When it comes to our youth and their right to an education, we cannot afford to have losers.

NOMINATED SOE IS UNFIT: SO WHAT ELSE IS NEW

Letter: DeVos unfit for education post

Among the people who were considered by President-elect Donald Trump for the position of US Secretary of Education…

Michelle Rhee is unqualified to be US Secretary of Education. She taught for three years, was the chancellor of DC Public Schools for one term, and put in place procedures that led to widespread cheating.

Tony Bennett is unqualified to be US Secretary of Education. As State Superintendent of Public Instruction in Indiana, he manipulated test score data to favor political donors and charter school owners. He also allegedly used government resources for his own campaign purposes.

Williamson Evers is unqualified to be US Secretary of Education. He never taught in a public school. He was never an administrator in a public school. His only public school activity has been to cause damage. He is a self-proclaimed “education expert” for no reason.

Luke Messer is unqualified to be US Secretary of Education. His only education experience is as a legislator making rules for schools without having to live with the consequences as an educator. He is an attorney.

As unqualified as those four candidates are, they are all infinitely more qualified than the ultimate nominee for the position. Betsy DeVos is unfit to have anything to do with America’s public schools. Not only does she have no experience, unlike some of the names above, but she has actively worked to destroy public schools as an act of faith. She has promoted charter schools while demanding that they be allowed to function with no public accountability. She has worked to transfer public funds into private pockets. You want to see how well her policies have worked for public schools? Take a look at Detroit.

On Nov. 23, President-elect Donald Trump announced that he would nominate Betsy DeVos to serve as secretary of education in his administration. From what we have seen in her home state of Michigan, DeVos is unfit for the Cabinet position. Her family has heavily funded a failed push for constitutional change to allow for vouchers, which allow taxpayer money to go to private schools.

Vouchers drain our public schools of the money they so badly need. DeVos also supports the rapid expansion of charter schools and online schools with minimal regulation. We’ve seen in Ohio with the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow how minimally regulated charters steal our children’s education and enrich business people.

Meet Betsy DeVos: Your New US Secretary of Education

Meet Betsy DeVos: Alphabetical Listing

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Posted in Accountability, Evaluations, Play Kid's Work, Public Ed, Quotes, Testing

December Quotes

Random quotes from 10 years (plus 2016) of Decembers on this blog. Quotes are from me, unless otherwise noted.

SUPPORT PUBLIC SCHOOLS

2016 Medley #31

from Arthur H. Camins

…it is democratically governed public schools that have made America great — not private schools and not charter schools. We all know that we can love what is imperfect. We need to strengthen the marriage between public schools and equity, not a divorce.

TEST SCORES ARE SOCIETY’S REFLECTION

2015
Berliner in Australia: The Testing Fiasco

from David C. Berliner

Blaming institutions and individual teachers directs our gaze away from the inequality and poverty that actually gives rise to those scores. In the same way a magician can divert attention of an entire audience when they make a person or a rabbit disappear.

CAN WE JUDGE TEACHERS BY THE SUCCESS OF THEIR STUDENTS?

2014
Evaluate Harvard

During his college days Harvard should have trained Duncan in the correct use of tests. They apparently didn’t.

I think that means that Harvard has failed in its preparation of social scientists and Harvard students shouldn’t be allowed any federal grants.

TEST SCORES ARE SOCIETY’S REFLECTION

2013
Our Nation is More Than a Test Score

from The AFT

One thing PISA research makes clear is that poverty’s effect on educational equity matters.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS HELP ALL OF US

2012
Darling-Hammond on American Education

from Linda Darling-Hammond

We all now have to care about the education of every person’s children. It’s not going to be enough to say my kids got educated because for every person who is not in the labor force, not paying taxes, not contributing to our health care system, to our Social Security, the social bargain that we have as Americans cannot be maintained. All of us have a vested interest in every child being educated, and yet kids who we wouldn’t spend $10,000 on to get them good teaching in Oakland, when they were second graders…to be sure they could learn to read…we’re spending $50,000 on them in prison ten years later.

NO MORE LOSERS

2011
The Most Important Speech on Education in Years

from Diane Ravitch

The free market works very well in producing goods and services, but it works through competition. In competition, the weakest fall behind. The market does not produce equity. In the free market, there are a few winners and a lot of losers. Some corporate reformers today advocate that schools should be run like a stock portfolio: Keep the winners and sell the losers. Close schools where the students have low scores and open new ones. But this doesn’t help the students who are struggling. No student learns better because his school was closed; closing schools does not reduce the achievement gap. Poor kids get bounced from school to school. No one wants the ones with low scores because they threaten the reputation and survival of the school.

ACCOUNTABILITY FOR ALL

2010
NY Student Play Banned

from a student play (N.Y.) on school reform

Tireseus (the blind prophet): Do you really think closing schools is the answer?

Chancellor: The school is failing.

Tireseus: Or maybe you are failing the school. Why not give them what they need to succeed?

Chancellor: But schools must be held accountable.

Tireseus: And what about you, Chancellor? Who’s holding you accountable?

ACCOUNTABILITY FOR ALL

2009 (November)
What Are You Doing Wrong?

The obsession with testing is so that schools will be “accountable” to the greater society. Where is the society’s accountability, though? Why is it that we can spend billions of dollars on a contrived war, and ignore the “economy gap” in our society? Why is it that educators have to accept No Child Left Behind to eliminate the “soft bigotry of low expectations” yet local, state and national governments don’t have to be accountable for the “soft bigotry of urban neglect?”

ON TEACHING

2008
Top 10 Reasons Why Teaching Jobs Based on Test Scores Is A Bad Idea

8. Teaching jobs based on test scores will contribute to cutthroat competition among teachers for positions most likely to produce the best test results.

PLAY IS CHILDREN’S WORK

2007
Kindergarten and Developmentally Appropriate Education

Play is children’s work. They learn how to live in the world, how to get along, to solve problems, and to share by playing. They can’t learn these things, though, unless they are allowed to get up from their chairs and interact with each other.

Skills based, academically oriented kindergartens are now the rule rather than the exception. Developmentally appropriate practice does not exist in some places any more. Does this help children? No long term studies have been done at this point, but my hunch is that by taking the opportunity to grow at their own rate away from children we are asking many of them to do what they can’t do…we’re asking them to touch the ceiling without a ladder.

MISUSE OF TESTING

2006
Leave this law behind…

At one time standardized tests were designed to show how students were progressing and what areas they were weak in. The tests were designed to be used diagnostically…to guide teaching and learning.

The tests are still designed to do that…and, in some places, they are even used correctly. But even schools which use standardized test scores correctly are having their scores published and compared to others.

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